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Iran says UK should fear revenge attack on British tanker
6 July 2019 • 11:32am Follow
Iran warned Britain that it “should be scared” that a British ship will be seized in the Gulf in a tit-for-tat retaliation.
Tensions continued to rise as a senior cleric renewed the threat of a revenge attack after the Royal Marines boarded a ship taking Iranian oil to Syria in breach of EU sanctions.
A general in Iran’s Revolutionary Guard had already threatened to seize a British ship on Friday after marines took control of Grace 1, a tanker owned by a Dubai-based company with ties to Tehran, was believed to be carrying two million barrels of crude oil to Syria Bashar Assad’s regime.
Fears of a reprisal intensified on Saturday when Mohammad Ali Mousavi Jazayeri, a member of the powerful Assembly of Experts clerical body said: “I am openly saying that Britain should be scared of Iran’s retaliatory measures over the illegal seizure of the Iranian oil tanker.”
An editorial in the Kayhan Daily, an Iranian newspaper, said the “UK must be made to regret its seizure of our oil tanker. Those in our government who call for restraint are at best stupid and at worst the fifth column of Britain.”
For much of Saturday morning all eyes were on a British supertanker stalled for several hours in the Gulf, with many observers fearing it had fallen victim to an attack by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.
Maritime tracking programs showed the British-flagged Pacific Voyager had stopped in the ocean early in the morning, with its status marked as “not under command.”
Iran was quick to dismiss “false reports” of a seizure, and it was later confirmed that the ship was merely waiting for access to a Saudi port.
But the incident did little to sooth fears in the region.
“Given the heightened tension amid the UK and Iran, the unusual trajectory of the tanker so close to Iranian waters was bound to attract attention,” said Michelle Bockmann, a commodities shipping analyst and editor at Lloyd’s List.
Iran has before made many threats about blocking the strait of Hormuz and not followed through. Ms Bockmann described the rhetoric as the “same sabre-rattling category as the bellicose rhetoric emerging from the Trump administration.”
However, she added: “The risk for any vessel with commercial interests encompassing the US and UK – and its allies – appear much greater for those sailing in the region, and are seen rising al the time.”
Britain’s decision to seize the Grace 1 tanker had provoked fury in Iran, which accused Britain of bowing to US pressure to blockade its oil exports, even summoning the British ambassador to the foreign ministry in Tehran to express “its very strong objection to the illegal and unacceptable seizure” of the 300-meter vessel.
“Islamic Iran in its 40-year history has never initiated hostilities in any battles, but has also never hesitated in responding to bullies,” Mr Rezai said on Friday.
Gibraltar officials however said that it had acted independently and denied seizing the tanker at the request of the US or any other country.
The Pacific Voyager, passed through the strait of Hormuz en route to the Saudi port of Ras Tanura on Friday. It is Japanese-owned, operated by a Singaporean company, and hired by a subsidiary of a South Korean firm.
Maersk, the Danish shipping giant, on Thursday announced it would levy a war risk surcharge on cargos transiting the Persian Gulf. The US and Britain have blamed Iran for a series of sabotage attacks against tankers near the Strait of Hormuz in May and June.
Addition reporting from Ahmed Vahdat